NicaNotes: Live from Nicaragua: Uprising or Coup?

The Alliance for Global Justice is the publisher of record of this important reader which tells the true story of last year’s US-funded failed coup against the Nicaraguan government. Released on April 18, 2019, the anniversary of the coup, this 324-page book is a truly collaborative effort of US and UK solidarity organizations and internationalists, most of who have lived in Nicaragua for decades. With 20 authors, video compilers, editors and proofreaders, the intention of this book is to counter the false narrative of the Nicaraguan opposition, their US government handlers, and the corporate media and the professional human rights industry.

Our data is better. Our narrative better conforms to the lived history of the last 39 years since the Triumph of the Sandinista Revolution. And we centrally place the United States government in the role it has played continuously for 150 years of Nicaragua’s history. To listen to a 20 minute interview with me about the book broadcast on Sputnik Radio on April 29 click here.

Over the next few months, the NicaNotes Blog will reprint articles and excerpts from Live from Nicaragua: Uprising or Coup? But the book is available free online in both e-book format and as a PDF. The e-book version offers the .epub and .mobi formats, so why not download it and read the whole thing. An informed public is our only defense against tyranny.

It just so happens that I wrote the introduction to the book, so today I’ll reprint that short piece to orient you for the future excerpts.

 

Introduction

By Chuck Kaufman National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice

On April 18, 2018 Nicaragua’s ten years of peace and growing prosperity were shattered as rumors spread across the country, at a speed only social media allow, that police were firing live ammunition at student protesters and that two students were dead. That rumor turned out to be false as no one died on April 18, but before the truth could get out, students and many ordinary Nicaraguans poured into the streets the following day to protest and three people did die: a policeman, a Sandinista supporter, and a bystander.

By then, in what has in hindsight, and with available evidence, every appearance of a full-blown and planned “soft coup” seemed irreversible. This effort to topple the democratically-elected government of President Daniel Ortega was originally led by students trained by US-funded “democracy promotion” programs. US-funded non-governmental organizations, the Sandinista Renovation Movement political party, the Catholic Church hierarchy, and as time passed, Salvadoran gang members and international drug cartels have also led the coup.

By April 19 it was already too late to counter the lies of the previous day. The coup was underway and its leaders were in control of the narrative both nationally and internationally with the full-throated assistance of the corporate media and establishment human rights groups. That narrative was that Daniel Ortega is a dictator and that he turned his brutal National Police loose to repress and massacre innocent, peaceful student protesters who were upset about changes to the old age retirement system. Never mind that social security is not normally a big concern of students or that in 39 years the National Police had never used lethal force against demonstrators, nor that opposition deaths from April 20 onwards in most cases occurred when they were attacking police or destroying government buildings).

Nicaraguans and internationalists were shocked and bewildered by the sudden spasm of violence in the country and the single, seemingly authoritative story being told about what was happening, who was doing it, and why. But as time passed and the internal contradictions became more obvious within this supposed spontaneous uprising of the people to throw off the shackles of dictatorship, it became important that the international solidarity movement mobilize to combat the disinformation, just as we did in the 1980s to stop US efforts to overthrow the Sandinista government.

Historic solidarity organizations such as Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice (US) and the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign (UK) joined with long-time solidarity activists and antiimperialist political analysts in both countries and with Nicaragua-based analysts such as Tortillaconsal.com and North American and European activists living in Nicaragua, to promote a counter narrative that conformed better to the facts-on-the-ground and actual lived history than the regime change narrative.

As Brian Willson and Nils McCune remind us in “US Imperialism and Nicaragua: “They would not let our flower blossom,” the April coup did not spring full-grown from the head of Zeus. It is part and parcel of a nearly 40 year campaign by the US government to maintain control over this Central American country where the US has intervened time and again for over 150 years. Even the most cursory examination of the events of 2018 cannot help but impress the observer with their similarity to past US practices in Nicaragua, to its current regime change efforts in Venezuela, and to the false flag and fake videos of everyone’s favorite terrorists, the White Helmets of Syria.

The coup was eventually defeated in mid-July with the removal of hundreds of roadblocks that had paralyzed the country causing billions of dollars in economic damage and lost jobs, and which had provided bases for extortion, kidnapping, murder, arson and rape. There has been no further significant violence since record numbers of Nicaraguans turned out for the 39th anniversary celebrations of the July 19 Triumph of the Sandinista Revolution. The massive crowds left no doubt that the majority of the populace sided with their elected government and against those who had kept them from working and hostage to fear for three long months. Many of those who committed heinous crimes during the coup months escaped to Costa Rica and Honduras, just like their spiritual fathers, Somoza’s National Guard did 40 years ago. Those who were captured have had all their judicial rights protected and as of this writing multiple trials are in progress. These defendants are being tried, not for opposing the government, but for murder, torture, arson, kidnapping, extortion, and other terrible crimes. They are not by any definition political prisoners.

[Update: The trials of those who did not flee justice have been completed. In negotiations with the opposition, the government has agreed to release to house arrest all but a handful of those who committed the most violent of crimes. The opposition claimed there were 800 political prisoners but the Red Cross, which compared the government and opposition lists concluded the count was 290, all but 50 of whom had already been released from prison. Daniel Ortega was himself imprisoned and tortured in Somoza’s prison system. He has never had a taste for putting his opponents behind bars. He even pardoned the members of Somoza’s dreaded National Guard from their 30 year sentences barely two years into their terms.]

While conditions are returning to normal with gutted government buildings repaired and rebuilt, cruise ships returning to Nicaragua’s ports, and people to their jobs, one wouldn’t know it from the tone and coverage of the international corporate press. To combat the relentless flow of disinformation and outright lies that is the continued effort by the US and Nicaraguan opposition to win what they could not win through the ballot box or by violence, we offer this Coup Reader for your examination. This book is primarily a compilation of articles written over the last 8-9 months along with some new material that presents quite a different account of the who, what, when, where and why of Nicaragua’s failed coup of 2018.

We first place Nicaragua in the historical context of US imperialism in Nils McCune and Brian Willson’s “US Imperialism and Nicaragua.” We then cover the stages of the coup week by week in a chapter by Nan McCurdy. Included also are an interview by journalist Max Blumenthal, a revealing chapter by myself on US finding of organizations that supported the coup, a review of the human rights situation by international law expert Dan Kovalik, and a chapter on Nicaragua’s popular economy by Nils McCune. We complete the Reader with an article on the struggle for balanced media coverage by John Perry, a chapter on the role of the Church by Coleen Littlejohn, and a newly written Conclusion by Dan Kovalik.

No organization or individual involved with this project received any financial or other remuneration from the government of Nicaragua or any other government or government-controlled entity for our role in producing this book. Except for those, like me, who are paid staff of a grassroots solidarity organization, all labor was voluntary. Proceeds from book sales, after we’ve recouped our direct costs, will be donated for support of the victims and the families of victims of the coup.

 

BRIEFS

By Nan McCurdy

Supreme Court Justice Rosales Shares His Views
Supreme Court Justice and president of the constitutional bench of the court, Francisco Rosales, is also part of the government team in current negotiations with the opposition. He was the Minister of Labor under Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and has been part of every government since then.  In a recent interview, Rosales lamented that the majority of the opposition continue to opt for a soft coup. He added that if they want power they should work towards winning the 2021 elections. He said, “Any solution has to be within the constitutional framework.” He expressed the opinion that “the opposition is mistakenly focusing on trying to get more pressure from the US, when it is Nicaraguans who will decide.” Rosales noted that the empire can exert pressure and they have changed from guns to economic pressure. “Their big threat is to cut loans,” he said.

Rosales said that the six opposition negotiators must negotiate on four levels, “One, with us [the government representatives]. Two, with some 40 allies who are always waiting in the wings. Three, with Nicaraguan Big Capital/Oligarchs. And four, with Trump, through the US embassy.” He added that within the opposition negotiating team the majority want to negotiate but a few want to torpedo the negotiations and opt for violence. Early elections are not on the negotiations agenda which was decided in February and March. Rosales said that the opposition alliance was the creation of the Catholic right wing, people like Bishop Silvio Baez. They have no social base and their support is the US, part of the European Union, and the Organization of American States.  

According to Rosales the government has released 60% of those captured, tried and sentenced for violence during the attempted coup as confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). They are serving their sentences in their own homes. The negotiated protocol for releasing persons deprived of liberty is that it will be done “in accordance with the country’s legal procedure and Nicaragua’s international obligations [under treaties] in this area. To release them requires specific legal orders and Judge Rosales said that the release has to be on the basis of this agreement. Rosales explained that a total liberation could only be done with an amnesty law through a political agreement. But in the signed agreement it said that it will be done in accordance with the Constitution and the laws in force and that an agreement will be discussed at the negotiation table. Rosales insisted that the government agrees that there should be equal justice for all, because on the Sandinista side and the National Police there are also many deaths, injuries and damages.

A March 20 opposition document proposes that by means of a political pact they agree on the replacement of all the magistrates of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) and its selection mechanism; profound changes in the structure of the CSE; electoral law reform; purging of the electoral roll; national and international observation; creation of an electoral prosecutor’s office independent of the CSE.  They want this agreement to be between the opposition alliance and the government and to be taken to the National Assembly for approval, leaving out the legally recognized political parties. (Informe Pastran, 4/29/19)

Opposition Returns to the Negotiating Table
After a number of absences, the opposition was present Monday April 29 at the negotiating table. The government negotiating team has been calling on the opposition for better behavior since the government negotiating team is always present at the required hour and has fulfilled all agreements made so far. The government also went ahead and released 196 prisoners to house arrest. For the negotiations location, the opposition chose the INCAE which is the campus of an expensive business school. Last week the opposition became a laughing stock on Facebook as they requested that the government pay their food bill also. The government only has six people there while the opposition has their six principal negotiators and some 40 others. The bill was for more than $30,000 dollars. There were at least thirty different memes about this. Nicaraguans are very creative and enjoy making jokes. (Radio La Primerisima, 4/29/19)

Government Negotiating Team Member Wilfredo Narvaez Chides Opposition
Constitutional Liberal Independent Movement Party Deputy Wilfredo Narvaez, who is allied with the Sandinista Party in the National Assembly, called on the opposition to stop lying, to stop with irresponsible attitudes; “even the Organization of American States Secretary General has pointed them out and called them liars, and has asked them to stop lying so that the dialogue can bear fruit.” “The other aspect is the deplorable behavior of a delegate of the Civic Alliance who on April 28 and 29 stated to the media that more pressure was needed from the United States to subdue the Government of Nicaragua. What this person doesn’t realize is that it is the people of Nicaragua, who are making demands, who want to build their own future.”  Narvaez went on, “These are the traitors who, since they cannot obtain power through elections, cry out to the north. These are the salaried employees of the north who want to torpedo this negotiation; but we are here, with will, with firmness, confirming the mandate of our government to find solutions to the national problem.” (Radio La Primerisima, 4/29/19)

Love of Nature Expo-Fair in Luis Alfonso Velásquez Park
A two-day fair in the Luis Alfonso Velásquez Park, which covers a large area in old downtown Managua, promoted care and protection of the planet with thousands of families and the diplomatic corps. It included a play called The Four Elements that outlines how air, earth, water and fire give balance to the planet so that all life can coexist harmoniously. Young people from fifteen departments and both Caribbean autonomous regions participated in the fair. This is the fifteenth year of celebrating International Mother Earth Day, April 22. Along with the play there were multiple activities showing how to promote survival of all life. There was also an ecological zumbatón, about Mother Earth in which young people and children competed answering questions about recycling, reforestation and prevention of forest fires. (Canal 4, 4/28/19)

Government Committed to Negotiations
Presidential Minister and Advisor Valdrack Jaenschke reaffirmed Nicaragua’s commitment to negotiations at the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States. He summarized the accords reached with the opposition during 21 sessions that began February 21 and in another session on electoral issues with the OAS specialist Cristobal Fernandez. He also reported on special sessions with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with the presence of the Papal Nuncio and an envoy from the OAS Secretary General.  As a gesture of good will, the Nicaraguan government has released nearly 200 prisoners. A mechanism has been proposed for the return of those who left Nicaragua in 2018, but the opposition has not accepted it. They also rejected a proposal to the international community to end economic sanctions. On March 26, the government had asked the OAS Secretary General to restart the memorandum of understanding signed in 2017 to work together on electoral reforms and March 27 this was accepted by the General Secretary. Jaenschke also thanked Pope Francis for exhorting the opposition and the government to find a peaceful solution quickly that will benefit the Nicaraguan population. (Informe Pastran, 4/26/19)

CONIMIPYME President Recommends Salary Increase
The President of the Council of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (CONIMIPYME), Leonardo Torres, proposed at the minimum wage negotiations table a salary increase of 2% for small and medium enterprises and 5% for other sectors, taking into account the economic indicators released by the Central Bank. CONIMIPYME leaders based their proposal on the fact that for the first time in 11 years economic indicators are negative, caused by the violence in 2018. Added to that is the low inflation rate of 3.8% and the 2018 economic contraction of -3.89%. (Radio la Primerisima, 4/25/19)

Government Purchases Multi-Million-Dollar Linear Accelerator
The new Linear Accelerator will be inaugurated at the National Radiotherapy Center on May 8, with the participation of Japanese Ambassador Yasuhisa Suzuki and the Representative of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Nicaragua, Hiromi Nai. The International Atomic Energy Organization approved the operation of the Linear Accelerator which complies with international safety standards. A linear medical accelerator (LINAC) personalizes high-energy x-rays, or electrons, to fit the shape of a tumor and destroy cancer cells without affecting the surrounding normal tissue. It has several built-in safety systems to ensure that it will deliver the dose as directed, and a medical physicist checks it periodically to make sure it is working properly. (Informe Pastran, 4/24/19)